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Bennachie dig features during Scottish Archaeology Month


By Kyle Ritchie

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The process of an archaeological dig that unearthed the story of the Bennachie Colonists is being presented online.

Conservation charity Bailies of Bennachie is taking part in Scottish Archaeology Month throughout September, which has gone digital this year.

Each week the group will focus on a different aspect of the colonists.

The dig was a joint project between the Bailies of Bennachie and the University of Aberdeen.
The dig was a joint project between the Bailies of Bennachie and the University of Aberdeen.

The colonists were mostly farm workers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries who were being forced off farms by changing agricultural practices. They chose to move to the commonty land on the lower slopes of the hill.

There, they built their houses, cleared the land for animals and crops, grew gardens, quarried rock and made a living from the land.

When the commonty was divided between neighbouring landlords in 1859, the colonists found themselves due to pay rent. Many left Bennachie and their story was almost forgotten.

The second presentation shows how excavations into the ruins of the colony houses revealed the lives of the people who had made them their homes.

The joint project between the Bailies and the University of Aberdeen concentrated on two crofts – Hillside, and Shepherd’s Lodge – on the hillside near the present day Bennachie Visitor Centre.

Bailies trustee Dave Peter said: “This presentation follows the process of finding the history of the colonists from site planning and surveying to digging and drawing.

"It tells how shards of pottery can help paint a picture of life on Bennachie in the 19th century.

“The hard work of the colonists is shown in analysis of the earth which shows how the crofters had enriched the soil in their gardens to a depth of a foot or more by clearing stones, adding the contents of the kitchen midden, ashes from the fire, organic peat from the hill and manure from the livestock.”

It is the second presentation of four on the Bennachie colonists which will be released during Scottish Archaeology Month.

The weekly presentations are being shown via the group's website www.bailiesofbennachie.co.uk/news

The Bailies have also published a blog and presentation from first time archaeology volunteer Allan Will called “Aargh! . . aeology ?” in which he details his experiences of joining a dig on Bennachie.

Further updates are available on the Bailies Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/bailiesbennachie

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